Friday, August 30, 2013

Pics and Vids

It has come to my attention that we have been remiss in posting pictures, so I am making up for it with both pictures and moving pictures. I'm the good child.
Hiccups from serenity johnson on Vimeo.

Sleeps from serenity johnson on Vimeo.

Siblings from serenity johnson on Vimeo.

Macca's Monster from serenity johnson on Vimeo.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More pictures today. This time of the whole family. Things are going well with the two babies, but there is definitely a breaking point built into every day, at which I become completely overwhelmed by the constant and varying demands for my attention. Thankfully, so far, recovery has been more or less immediate. Grumpiness has swapped between them, and now Joash is the one having cranky days, while Ammi just sits and stares and eats and sucks on fingers. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the company of a newborn. Such simple cuddles. A one-stop fix for most every problem. So much easier than trying to crack the ever-changing toddler code.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We took some pictures of our sweet, new baby.

I can post them right now because this is happening:

Monday, August 12, 2013

Amielle West Johnson

August 7, 2013, 4:55 PM - 9 lbs 5 ounces, 21.6 inches long

My main concern in giving birth a second time was not making it to the hospital on time. My first delivery progressed much more quickly than I’d anticipated, and, in fact, was more intense at the time than I’d realized. We made it to Medi Flower then with only half an hour to spare. This time, it was our plan to head for the birth center the moment labor began. But what a difficult thing to determine, the start of labor. 

The morning I delivered my daughter, I had put the laundry out to dry on the rooftop terrace of our apartment building. For weeks of wishful thinking I had been making sure to finish up all my chores in the morning in case I happened to go into labor. I washed the dishes, brewed some iced tea, picked up various of my son’s toys, and put the laundry out to dry. The laundry racks are such that they have to be anchored or they’ll flip and fly in the wind, and you’ll end up with dirty laundry and a mangled rack. So, in our apartment complex, everyone wedges one end into the slats of an available picnic bench, but on the morning of August 7th, my normal benches were occupied. In trying to find another operable bench, I got my rack stuck and had such a physical struggle unsticking it that it collapsed and fell apart, and I more or less did as well. 

My firstborn and I took our morning nap, and when we woke up, I threw a bunch of pillows on the floor and resolved to lay there the rest of the day. My belly was hard with Braxton Hicks contractions as it had been seemingly every second of each of the last month of days. At 42 weeks pregnant, I had gotten used to ignoring discomfort and vague indicators of labor. At 2:45 PM, though, something made me get up off my nest of pillows and sit on the couch. I texted my friend to tell her I thought I might be having contractions. My husband, Dan, was at work, and I didn’t want to call him home for no reason. They were lasting for sixty seconds and just three minutes apart, but they weren’t yet so intense that I couldn’t talk through them. I decided to call and see what Dan thought, but he didn’t answer. I told my friend that that meant I probably was having the baby. She convinced me I was in labor, and our texts escalated into exclamations. I called Dan again, and he started home from work.

Next I did the normal things you do while awaiting the ripening of the cervix, like sweeten the tea while it was warm and freeze my son’s birthday cake, which, because it was his birthday that day, had been cut only to provide him a festive breakfast. I dropped the cake on the floor and spent the next five minutes bent over cleaning it up. I was sure I was having the baby after that.

My husband’s co-worker drove us to the birth center. I clutched the door handle with my right hand and steadied my son in his seat with my left. In between contractions I responded to his curious chatter about the trucks he saw and the drums he heard. We arrived at Medi Flower about half an hour later, roughly one hour after labor had begun. I was so glad to be arriving in relative calm. Ella met us and told me I’d be set up with a ten minute non-stress test. I was 5 centimeters dilated. I laid down and listened to my daughter’s heartbeat as I breathed through intensifying contractions. My son alternated his attention between a DVD in the back of the room and driving cars on the bed next to me. We were left alone until the paper in the machine ran out. I thought for sure they’d just take me off the machine and let me sit up, but, as minutes earlier I’d been only half through complete dilation, they replaced the paper and again left the room. At some point, I noticed I could no longer lay flat and still and manage the pain. I was determined not to spend transition writhing on my back as I had two years previous on the floor of an ambulance, recalling it as the most unbearable pain of my laboring experience. My body took over, and I was up on the bed. Shortly after, I was standing and leaning over the bed. Shortly after, I was hastily shifting my weight from foot to foot, and I told Dan that I thought I needed to start pushing. Dan found Ella. I’m not sure what happened next, but I have a visceral memory of various hands. There was a hand at my left that I gripped with contractions. That ended up being Dan’s. There was a hand at my shoulder, coupled with voiced encouragement. That ended up being Ella’s. I was grateful for both. 

I wondered if someone would offer me a stool as they had during my previous birth experience. Thankfully my brain realized I should communicate instead. A stool appeared. I sat down. Rocking back and forth. I wasn’t sure I should start pushing, so I kept trying to just breathe through the contractions. I couldn’t. I started pushing. It hurt. I said so. A chorus of voices told me to say, “Ha-ah-ah-ah.” I did. It hurt. Soon enough I heard bated breath. I knew that meant it must be nearly over. I heard Dr. Chung ask if Dan wanted to catch the baby. Another push, my face seized, and I felt the release of a tangle of limbs. I opened my eyes and was surprised to see a room full of people. A baby in my arms and someone hoisted me on the bed. I couldn’t stop shaking. Weighing 9 pounds and 5 ounces and measuring 21.6 inches long, Amielle West Johnson was born at 4:55 PM, slightly more than two hours after the start of labor, and two years to the day of the birth of her brother.

If it’s possible, even more than with the birth of my son, we felt everyone’s genuine excitement at the arrival of our girl. Ella was a great encouragement and a practical asset, making sure Dan kept offering me water, commiserating how much more painful it was to handle contractions while kept stationary, and providing translation as needed. I am so thankful to have again given birth in a place that values the mother’s instincts and allowed me to pull myself off the monitor and move freely into the second stage of labor. I have heard recounted so many experiences of mothers being brushed off by a professional opinion, but I was attended to in earnest and with immediacy. I’m left with only good sentiments about the separate births of my two children and the capability of my body to accomplish its most natural task. I cannot thank Dr. Chung and the staff of Medi Flower enough for that.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Joash is 2!!

His merciful sister agreed to let Joash have an undivided, albeit humble, birthday celebration. We blew out candles fashioned from a McDonald's straw (because we realized at the last minute that we had no candles, and nothing in Korea is open before work), and ate cake for breakfast. Then we danced to songs we knew he liked. And that there is a fine two-year old's birthday party. I just saved you all a lot of work.

I decided on a whim to make him a cake with the face of his favorite Korean cartoon on it, Tayo the Little Bus. Tayo is an insufferable bus who always does the right thing and makes lots of audible pauses while doing it. Why are characters in kid shows always audibly pausing? It kills me. I don't actually mind the beliefs espoused on Tayo, but why is his voice so dang annoying? Anyhow, this is my fondant rush job. It was pretty fun, and I thought the labor might inspire a labor of another sort. It was worth a try.

With his Papa first thing on his birthday. It is his Papa, not his Mama because one is much easier than the other to make presentable first thing in the morning.

He was equally as excited about Tayo as he was about his straw candle. We've actually been practicing blowing out straw candles in play dough cakes this week, so he was familiar with the whole ordeal.

Blowing. Next year he'll be a pro.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Waiting for a second baby to finish on the inside is way harder than waiting for a first. I realize now how very much nothing I did during the end of my inaugural pregnancy, other than the occasional 8 mile traipse around town for treats and fellowship (which somehow happened the day before I gave birth, possibly prompting it). These days, if I walk the ten minutes to and then back home from E-Mart, I know I will be out of commission for at least a day. It ruins my back and makes changing positions an entire ordeal. Going to the doctor via subway the other day was a feat of strength. And, of course, it's a lot to be up and down with Joash all day.

Beyond that, I feel and look like a sumo wrestler, especially when I wear a high summer bun, so, every day then. And this time I feel all the Braxton Hicks, and I feel like they are happening non-stop, and, because last time I felt nothing until after my water broke, it has often tricked me into thinking labor nearer than it proves to be. Also, I'm nervous we won't make it in time. I've heard too many recent stories of one hour births, and people who've had long births maybe think that sounds nice, but I think we who've had short births know it's sort of terrifying and all too intense to be condensed into an hour. Every time I pack away as settled something I was nervous about, I find a new thing to take its place.

I don't have time to reflect as rhapsodically on this pregnancy. I really enjoyed my time with Joah in my belly, and I lamented to Dan at the end the loss of that. Now I just want to be done. With the swollen legs and puffy face, with the acid in my throat and the acid on my grumpy tongue, with the rough feet and the endless itchiness, with the protruding barrier between me and my other family members. I often feel like I'm somehow failing at all aspects of baby growing. We've had the most minor of complications, but they make me feel responsible (and thereby irresponsible), and I even feel like it's something I'm doing wrong that's keeping her in there, as if I'm being punished for my bad attitude, as if a baby growing to term has anything to do with the whims of its mother.

By now, I'm just hoping this girl comes out without any bruises from the constant knocking she gets from her big brother. I am able to sympathize so well, now, with my wombed self. I'm sure I took plenty of accidental blunt traumas from my own big brother in those days.

Let's just all agree that tomorrow is the day, and then tomorrow will be the day. But, before then, two videos and a picture.

On the Phone from serenity johnson on Vimeo.
Dan called to solidify dinner plans one night, and Joash took the phone and paced the apartment with it. I show little of the pacing because, also that night, Joash had chosen to be naked in the nethers.

Puzzling from serenity johnson on Vimeo.
He puts his puzzles together wrong now because he thinks it's pretty clever. He's not wrong.

Last night, an early wakeup and several night wakings necessitated an early bedtime, so there was still enough light out for a picture when Dan was putting him down. He's been waking up sort of regularly at night lately. I don't know if it's because it's disgustingly hot (and damp and disgusting and hot) or if it has something to do with my constant trips to the bathroom across from his room or if it's just developmental. Maybe it's teeth? Maybe it's everything. Maybe he just knows a baby's about to come wreck his life but hopefully eventually for the better.